Think Carefully About the Consequences of Privatization
September 20, 2017
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  • Republicans are leading an effort to privatize many functions that government now performs. Some functions of the military (food preparation, waste disposal, even guard duty) are now being performed by private companies. (Remember Blackwater?) Schools are one target, prisons another, as is air traffic control Medicare, nuclear waste storage, veteran’s affairs, public broadcasting, national parks, forest and land management. The objective is boundless to fire government employees and replace them with profit-making companies.

    Prisons are not high on the care list for most Americans. So, some states, including Montana, have turned to private companies to take the overflow with disastrous results: overcrowding, understaffing, unnecessary and excessive punishment, false reporting, sexual assaults, etc. But private companies also have many faults. Service to customers is not always great; lawsuits about deception and failure to deliver the product or benefit promised is another problem. Safety and labor laws tend to be overlooked.

    Privatization is not the panacea some would have you believe. Government was born to provide certain services that the private sector is not equipped or trusted to do well.

    Privatization means a profit-making company is expected to provide the same level of service that could be provided by a public agency. To do that, the company must either increase fees paid by the public, reduce pay and/or benefits for employees, reduce number of employees (level of service) or reduce services in other ways. Privatization means less oversight and control by the public. There’s no other way to explain it.

    So, when the privatization boosters want to sell their story, remember: Their motive is profit, which you are expected to pay for. Will you be better off with the profiteers or with government services? Will the service be improved or diminished? Will your cost for the service be more or less? Think about it.